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Downplaying Khalistani extremism, targeting India-Australia ties, fuelling Indophobia: ABC News ‘journalist’ Avani Dias makes outlandish claims about Modi govt

Avani Dias and her propagandist friends at ABC News sought to weaken India-Australia ties and create an atmosphere of diplomatic distrust.

On Sunday (16th June), the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) News carried out yet another hitjob on India and accused the Modi government of planning to assassinate Khalistanis residing in Australia.

One of the propagandists at the helm of this targeted disinformation campaign happened to be Avani Dias, who had previously lied about her visa being cancelled by the Indian government.

She and 3 other fellow ‘journalists’ published an article on ABC News titled, “Narendra Modi’s Indian government and its allies accused of spying, silencing Sikh critics and pushing its far-right ideology in Australia.” A 45-minute-long documentary was also released on Monday (17th June) on the same subject.

Screengrab of the contentious article published by ABC News

At the very onset, the article attempted to strike fear in the minds of Australians about the growing Indian diaspora in the country and the supposed influence of the Modi government in their national security. “The long arm of the Indian state is reaching Australians and threatening national security,” it read.

Avani Dias and her coterie of propagandists claimed that Indian security agents threatened a taxi driver turned Khalistani separatist named Harjinder Singh for organising a ‘referendum’ in Melbourne and Brisbane.

Singh, who is a member of the banned outfit ‘Sikhs for Justice’, alleged that he received threatening calls from Indian government agencies to stop peddling the Khalistani agenda or be prepared to die.

He also claimed that the Modi government harassed his family members, who are currently residing in the Indian State of Punjab.

It is hard to believe that an Indian secret agent would make the juvenile mistake of threatening a random Khalistani in Australia over a phone call (knowing well that such calls could easily be traced by Australian law enforcement authorities and expose their identities).

ABC News claimed that the death threats from Indian authorities have forced Khalistanis in Australia to stop their ‘political work’ – a term meant to downplay the extremist motives to secede the Indian State of Punjab from the Union of India.

This pattern of threats from Indian authorities has forced some Australians to take a step back from their political work, and many did not want to speak publicly because of fears for their own and their family’s safety,” it claimed.

Avani Dias and her fellow ‘journalists’ pointed out that Harjinder Singh was not ‘scared’ to campaign for Khalistan in Australia and undermine India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. They also highlighted the testimony of his wife Simerdeep Kaur, who was worried that Singh could meet the same fate as Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Downplaying Khalistani extremism

The contentious article published by ABC News left no stone unturned to trivialise the actions of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. It shrewdly referred to him as an ‘activist executed outside Sikh temple.’

The propaganda news outlet also roped in a Canada-based Khalistani Moinder Singh and used him to make direct insinuations about India. “Moninder Singh – apparently warned by the Canadian govt about the possibility of being killed by Indian authorities at any time. Even in Australia, Moninder believes the Indian government is watching. Here in Australia for crisis management,” it alleged.

ABC News highlighted how terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar was Moinder’s “close friend” and that his assassination was a “painful memory.” It pointed out how Khalistanis were ready to carry out terror attacks but claimed that such a form of extremism did not pose threats by citing experts.

Some in the movement haven’t ruled out taking up arms again, if necessary, but researchers say it doesn’t currently pose any threat. We would actually use any means available to protect our movement and people, so I think it’s a question for India as to how they want to deal with us,” Moninder said,” the article stated.

It also attempted to contextualise the brutal killing of the former Indian Prime Minister by her bodyguards cum Khalistanis Satwant Singh and Beant Singh. “The Sikh bodyguards who assassinated prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 were incensed by her decision to order Indian military to storm Sikhism’s holiest site,” ABC News said.

It also attempted to trivialise the actions of Khalistanis who bombed Air India Flight 182 and the role of terrorist Talwinder Singh Parmar. “Sikh separatists were also accused of being behind the bombing of Air India Flight 182,” the article in the propaganda news outlet said.

Antagonising the Sikh community

ABC News roped in Khalistani separatist Moinder Singh to claim that the Indian government was targeting the Sikh community in Australia.

They’re already here, they’re already interfering and it’s very dangerous for the Sikh community here. If something isn’t checked soon, a country like Australia could be in the same position as Canada in a few years,” Singh was quoted as saying.

The news outlet also cited other Khalistanis and claimed that Indian authorities threatened their families with criminal charges, gave death threats to them in Australia.

Several Australian Sikh separatists have told Four Corners that Indian authorities have visited their families in India and threatened them due to their loved ones’ activism overseas,” it said.

It must be mentioned that the Modi government is vocal against Khalistani separatism in both India and abroad. As such, it is evident that those fantasising about breaking apart Punjab from the Union of India would not leave any opportunity to tarnish the government.

Backing unproven claims of Justin Trudeau

The unsubstantiated claims made by Justin Trudeau-led-Canadian government about India’s supposed involvement in the assassination were also prominently mentioned in the ABC News article.

The Canadian government has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration of orchestrating the assassination, which India denies,” it claimed.

ABC News further added, “Since Modi came to power a decade ago, he’s amped up India’s intelligence operations. In Modi’s telling, it’s defending the country from separatist groups, which his administration has labelled “terrorists”.Two alleged assassination plots may show how far his government is willing to go to achieve that.

The objective was to lend credence to the baseless theory that India under the Modi government was somehow complicit in extra-territorial killings. Earlier in April this year, The Guardian alleged that India was using Jihadis to kill Pakistani terrorists on their home turf.

Targeting India-Australia ties, fuelling Indophobia

The article written by Avani Dias and her fellow ‘journalists’ also sought to weaken India-Australia ties and create an atmosphere of diplomatic distrust.

As the federal government embraces Narendra Modi and his administration as an important partner, the long arm of the Indian state is reaching Australia, silencing critics and threatening members of the diaspora,” it claimed.

The politically motivated article went to allege that India has a ‘nest of spies’ in Australia to promote so-called ‘far-right Hindu ideology’ and ‘amass political power.’ It claimed that the Modi government through intelligence officers were trying to monitor Indian diaspora in Australia, gain access to airport security protocols and sensitive defence technology.

In 2020, India-Australia relations seemed better than ever. Trade deals were blossoming and a range of defence alliances were being signed in response to China’s growing power in the region. In secret though, Australia was unhappy with India’s spy operations in the country,” ABC News alleged.

Avani Dias and her propagandist friends were also hellbent on fearmongering about the growing presence of brown-skinned Indians in Australia.

“The Modi government’s impact is being felt in Australia in other ways. The Indian diaspora is now one of the largest in Australia, second only to those born in the UK. It’s become a powerful force for Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to tap into for support in elections. That’s done through a group called the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP), which has a presence in Australia,” they remarked.

Unverified stories to tarnish India

The article by Avani Dias and her fellow ‘journalists’ tried to link a generic 2021 statement by Australia’s intelligence chief Mike Burgess to allege that India has a ‘nest of spies’ in Australia.

They also alleged that four Indian intelligence officers/ diplomats were asked to leave the country on account of their ‘covert activities.’

The expulsions were done secretly. They left one by one. The Modi government, laser-focused on turning India into a respected and strong player on the world stage, thought it had gotten away without public embarrassment,” the article in ABC News claimed.

The news outlet also roped in a Greens senator named David Shoebridge to condemn India for supposedly compromising the national security of India. Coincidentally, a former Parliamentarian from Greens named Bob Brown runs ‘Adani Watch‘ – known for peddling fake news about India and the Indian conglomerate Adani group.

Controversy surrounding Avani Dias

In April this year, Avani Dias took to X (formerly Twitter) to claim that she had to leave India abruptly due to the non-extension of her visa by the Modi government.

The controversial ‘journalist’ also alleged that the Indian government had plans to not allow her accreditation to cover the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Dias claimed that her visa was extended for a period of 2 months at the last minute, following which she went back to Australia.

She lamented returning to her home country just a day before the first phase of the elections. Thereafter, her employer ABC News published a controversial article (archive) claiming that Dias received a phone call from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and was notified about the denial of her visa extension.

The publication said that MEA informed the ‘journalist’ that she crossed a line with her propaganda-laden YouTube video, which suggested that India was somehow involved in the assassination of Canada-based Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

The 29-minute-long video was deliberately titled ‘Sikhs, Spies and Murder: Investigating India’s alleged hit on foreign soil’ to tarnish the image of India on a global scale and present the nation as a facilitator of extra-territorial killings in foreign countries.

Nonetheless, the Modi government directed YouTube to withhold the anti-India propaganda video by ABC News and its South Asia Bureau Chief Avani Dias. “This content is currently unavailable in this country because of an order from the government related to national security or public order,” reads a message on the YouTube link of the video

Avani Dias was under the false impression that a red carpet would be laid out for her by the Indian government for attempting to sour the diplomatic relations of the nation with its allies and partner countries.

The controversial ‘journalist’ was also seen playing the victim card on X (formerly Twitter) and casting aspersions on the state of Indian democracy under the Narendra Modi regime.

Interestingly, she was able to rope in support from 30-odd foreign correspondents. Later, it surfaced in the media that she lied about her visa extension denial and returned to Australia for her wedding and a new job. Nonetheless, Avani Dias continues to work ABC News’ Four Corners.

She had previously courted controversy for insinuating the role of Hindus in the vandalism of the Shree Laxmi Narayan Temple in Brisbane, attempting to portray the Pran Prathistha ceremony of  Ram Mandir as a ‘Hindu supremacist’ event, supporting the wearing of religious attire in government schools, spreading lies about CAA and denouncing the implementation of Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021 in Uttar Pradesh.

Recently, she was caught spreading canards about the Indian Constitution. Dias claimed that ‘secularism’ was part of the Indian constitution since the country got independence from the British rule in 1947. She made the false claims in a video titled ‘The story behind India’s Narendra Modi’ with the objective to portray that India’s secularism was somehow in danger under the leadership of PM Modi.

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Dibakar Dutta
Dibakar Dutta
Centre-Right. Political analyst. Assistant Editor @Opindia. Reach me at [email protected]

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